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Hola all. Massawyrm here.


Okay, as regular readers know, when I’m not watching movies, I’m playing Dungeons & Dragons. When I’m not Playing D&D, I’m playing Warhammer 40,000. But what am I playing when I’m not playing either of those? Right now? DESCENT: JOURNEYS IN THE DARK. I love the hell out of this game. It’s a board game, and being a board game, there isn’t much that comes out for it – roughly two expansions a year. Which is why I haven’t been afforded the opportunity to talk about it until now. But those that have played it know why I’m so excited to write about it. You can tell instantly if someone else has played it by the way their eyes light up when you mention the name. Essentially Descent is Dungeons & Dragons without the role playing or the long term record keeping. You select a character (or randomly draw one), randomly draw ability cards, buy some gear and then take your character down into a dungeon with all the other players. Well, all of the other players but one. The other player is, for all intents and purposes, the dungeon master. With one, small, tiny, insignificant difference. He’s called the OVERLORD and he wants to kill you. And every member of your party. Before you accomplish whatever mission you’re on. The experience is kind of like doing an Instance in World of Warcraft, if only another player were controlling all the monsters and was trying desperately to prevent you from reaching the end boss. The result is an incredibly strategic tactical board game in which every round you spend being careful, nabbing loot or leveling up in town is one round stronger the Overlord will be. The longer you take, the more power the overlord has to surprise you with traps, lay down power cards that make his dungeon stronger or summon more monsters to weaken and destroy you. An entirely cooperative board game, it turns from a pretty calmly paced dungeon raid into a frenetic strategy session between the players who have tough decisions like opening that treasure chest or kicking down the door before the overlord can do something nasty. The overlord chooses the scenario, sets up the board and runs everything inside. But he’s still limited by rules of his own. In fact, the game is stacked against the Overlord, so in order to win, he actually has to play the hardest. A great challenge for groups who tend to have one player that dominates most games most of the time, as one person battles the collective. The game comes in a basic set called DESCENT: JOURNEYS IN THE DARK which comes with everything you need to play. But once you’ve gotten into it, you’ll no doubt want to pick up one or more of the four expansions, each adding new characters, treasures and abilities – and for the overlord new monsters (complete with new figures) new traps and new kinds of threats. Some even come with new dungeon tiles.


Which brings me to the reason for this post, Fantasy Flight’s newest expansion The Tomb of Ice. This time around, the expansion’s theme is monsters of ice and snow, ghosts and, of all things, invisibility. This set comes with a number of game changing additions that aren’t for the feint at heart. Aside from the general assortment of new critters, tiles and threat cards – there are whole new concepts introduced that will reinvigorate the game for those who feel that it’s gotten a bit stale and makes things even crazier for those just getting into it. The single biggest change is the introduction of the feat card. These cards work similarly to the Overlords cards – except that they don’t require any threat and you don’t draw them every turn. This allows the heroes to have something up their sleeves that the Overlord can’t take into account. The cards range from allowing them to gain bonuses on their actions and attacks all the way to destroying cards in the Overlord’s hand. The cards are split between the three skills and you get them based upon your characters own starting skills. This simple addition really changes the strategy of the Overlord, who can no longer always count on exactly what the players are capable of. In turn, the Overlord gets a whole new batch of treachery cards, some of them involving very sinister new combinations. One of the new cards allows you to lay down a patch of ice underfoot of a moving adventurer. When dropped in a combat that pits the players against flyers or ranged fighters (like skeletons or sorcerers) it can create a nightmare for melee speced parties. Also added to the Overlord’s repertoire of evil is a new monster ability SWALLOW. This comes along with a disgusting stomach tile to place heroes that find themselves on the unfortunate end of that attack. You can fight your way out – but you die quick in there, and there are some drawbacks to fighting inside the belly of the beast. In addition to all of this comes a slew of new abilities and mechanics. Ghost is a cool new ability that makes creatures immune to adjacent melee attacks – and Tread Ice allows for the use of terrain against foes. But the most interesting new mechanic is the STEALTH die, which adds the notion of invisibility and stealthy characters to the game. It’s an incredibly simple device, just a clear die with two X sides and four blank ones. The X’s work just like the X on the attack dice. Any attack made against a target with STEALTH requires that you add the Stealth die to the attack roll. Invisible? Stealthy? You’re getting hit 1/3 less of the time. It’s a neat, simple solution to a problem that often comes with sticky mechanics. And as an overlord I can say that there’s nothing more demoralizing than watching a pesky adventurer blow an important roll with 2 X’s showing instead of just one. And finally, the bulk of the six new characters rock pretty hard and make for a very interesting set of adversaries (or protagonists, depending on which side of the board you’re playing on.) Two characters particularly stand out: Shiver, the magic wielder with the disgusting innate AURA 4 ability, practically annihilating certain threats; and Karnon, the yeti. Yes, the Yeti. He’s a nasty piece of work with only two skill points (while most characters have 3) but a maxed out five dice in his Melee trait. Yeah…he’s kind of gross. But there’s also a Halfling on wolf-back, a cool barbarian who can wield 2 handed weapons in one hand, a ghostly flyer who is soft and squishy but has neat abilities, and a ranger who is built more around the new feat card mechanic than anything else – but gets an extra skill card for the trouble. All in all, TOMB OF ICE is a full bodied expansion - not just a few new pieces to play around with, but fundamentally different tools to freshen up the look and feel of the game. If you’re a fan of DESCENT, than this expansion is a must own and comes highly, highly recommended. To highlight how much I love this expansion, I’d like to note that my ToI box is currently completely empty, all of the tiles, figures and cards having been permanently absorbed into the main box. Once you’ve played with it, you’re not going to want to go back to playing with just the standard box set. It’s a game changer.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em. Massawyrm
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Readers Talkback
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  • Nov. 26, 2008, 3:38 p.m. CST

    Haven't seen this feature before.

    by Shan

    Is it a new thing? Looks interesting.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 3:43 p.m. CST

    Fucking nerd

    by Klytus_I.m_Bored

    Just kidding. I love when AICN reviews RPGs and shit.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 3:59 p.m. CST


    by Loosejerk

    When I hear of things like this...I kinda like to see of those things as well. Would it killed ya for a pic? Not even a link.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 4:29 p.m. CST

    Sorry Loosejerk - here ya go

    by Massawyrm 1

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 4:38 p.m. CST


    by LordTwinkie

    keep this up, i love board games i've looked at Descent and have been wanting to get it, me and my friends play Arkham Horror which is an awesome H.P. Lovercraft Call of Cthulhu board game, and Tide Of Iron which is a kick ass WW2 board game, Last Night on Earth which is the greatest zombie board game i've ever played, and Mystery of the Abbey which is kind of like clue but better. there are more and better board games then just nascar monopoly, life, and sorry.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 4:53 p.m. CST

    board and card games

    by STLost

    I haven't really delved into board games such as these. What is the replay factor on them? When I think of board/card games, I think of there are only so many options you can do before you start repeating actions or something. <p> My favorite board game was Axis and Allies. We used to play that for hours.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 4:55 p.m. CST


    by MistahSilvah

    This sounds great! But how does it compare to Talisman? The OG not the newer one that came out a couple of years ago?

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 5:10 p.m. CST


    by jacksparness

    How does it compare to Monopoly? Fucking nerd, get some balls and move out of your Mother's basement.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 5:45 p.m. CST


    by Loosejerk

    now that's service!

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 5:48 p.m. CST

    Use those hands for something useful, rent PORN!

    by EvilWizardGlick

    Jesus, nay you people ever get laid? <p> Real women not warm Tapioca in a sock.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 5:49 p.m. CST

    Something I don't understand about the rules....

    by Loosejerk

    When you role for a save from Manilow's butt bang power, do you check against Astley's lame ass old joke boost?

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 6:40 p.m. CST


    by nolan bautista

    Rent PORN? Jesus,nay you ever get laid? A real woman not a sticky dvd remote..

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 6:58 p.m. CST


    by Massawyrm 1

    That's called a Maniroll, and you get a +1 to saves against it if you possess the "Do not trust blind links" feat.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 7:02 p.m. CST

    Massawyrm's reviews have made me want to take up Warhammer 40K

    by KnightShift

    Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 7:20 p.m. CST


    by darkslab

    common, post some pics of these games your talking about. It would help break up the loong paragraphs and at least let us see what your talking about. You guys post tons of posters/vids/trailers and everything else, this area should get the same attention. Not links to Barry Manillow.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 7:27 p.m. CST


    by Toonol

    Don't. Don't look at it, don't ask about it. It's like meth, it ruins lives. Young promising lives, snuffed out because some bastard exposed them to Warhammer 40k.

  • Nov. 26, 2008, 10:25 p.m. CST

    FFG is pretty good...

    by Marlowespade

    ...I love the hell out of Arkham Asylum. Great production values for all FFG's stuff.

  • Nov. 27, 2008, 1:21 a.m. CST

    Descent: Road to Legend

    by GoDFaDDa42

    If you haven't played this, you should. It adds a campaign mode, plus shortens the dungeons to play in less than two hours. Perfect for evening play over a long period of time, with maybe some long weekend days to compensate. We had a game going for a looong time. Also, you should link to the homepage for the game and the BoardGameGeek page for these games when you review them. Lots of information at both places.

  • Nov. 27, 2008, 4:47 a.m. CST

    Damn... I thought this was about the sequel to the awesome horro

    by Black Jesus

    Oh well...

  • Nov. 27, 2008, 5:26 a.m. CST


    by Rei-Ginsei

    I got into Warhammer 40k when the Tyranid expansion just came out. The local hobby/comic shop used to do painting sessions every Thursday and I still remember trying to paint details on a figure 1/4" tall using a brush made from a single hair. When they'd break out the big board and do 3 or 4 player free-for-all though, it was well worth it.<p> Now I live in the middle of nowhere and the only comic/hobby store is 40 minutes away and sells no miniatures. My swarm has about 13 years of dust on it and I've got a binder of photocopied rule books (which was how we infringed copyrights pre-internet).

  • Nov. 27, 2008, 9:29 a.m. CST

    Toonol re: Warhammer 40K

    by KnightShift

    Your sentiment resonates with what a lot of folks have told me: that Warhammer 40K is *fun* no question, but it eats up lots of time and $$$. It's still awfully tempting... :-) My big thing is Classic Battletech. Right now it's enjoying serious renaissance (in spite of WizKids getting shuttered).

  • Nov. 27, 2008, 10:42 a.m. CST

    love these reviews

    by Gateway5

    Hey Massa, I'm digging these table top reviews. I'd love to hear your thoughts on some White Wolf stuff. Hunter the Vigil looks cool, but I'm not sure.

  • Nov. 27, 2008, 3:22 p.m. CST

    If this was Herc we'd have 100 of pictures plus amazon links!

    by crayon

    And in this single instance I think it'd be appreciated. There's no way I have any time or friends to play this kind of thing with, but I am very curious how it looks.

  • Nov. 28, 2008, 11:17 a.m. CST

    A real link

    by bingo the clown

    Since Massawyrm's being a jerk: And Descent's no Warhammer Quest (which unfortunately is out of print).

  • Nov. 28, 2008, 11:18 a.m. CST


    by bingo the clown

    Remove the space in my link above; I'm not sure how that happened.

  • Nov. 29, 2008, 10:36 a.m. CST

    Good stuff...

    by peter_page

    Sounds like a good substitute for getting unwary visitors (on a Friday) to start playing something cool when DnD might be too, uhm, overwhelming... Like a gateway drug... Your reviews rock... AICN Tabletop is the coolest part of the site.